A Protrusion at the Outside Base of the Big Toe

A bunion is a protrusion, or bump, that forms on the outside edge of the big toe where the toe bone meets the foot bone (called the metatarsophalangeal joint).

Bunions are the result of the big toe pointing toward the second toe. You can inherit a type of foot shape and structure – such as flat feet – that makes you more prone to this. Or it can be caused by certain types of arthritis or a genetic joint deformity. In addition, frequently wearing narrow, high-heeled shoes can force the big toe toward the second toe, speeding up the development of or worsening bunions.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

The signs and symptoms of bunions are:

  • A red, thick bump at the outside base of the big toe
  • A big toe that turns inward and may cross over or under the second toe
  • Corns and calluses
  • Pain and stiffness at the first metatarsophalangeal joint
  • Trouble fitting into shoes or wearing shoes without pain
  • In advanced bunions, foot deformities that make it difficult to walk

Your orthopaedic doctor or podiatrist can diagnose bunions through a physical exam. Sometimes an X-ray is also completed to further evaluate the toe and foot bones and joints.

Bunions can be managed well with self-care methods like not wearing narrow, high-heeled shoes and using spacers, foam pads or inserts found over the counter at your local pharmacy. However, you may need bunion surgery if your bunion pain makes it difficult to walk. Bunion surgery is often successful at reducing pain.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Top-Ranked by U.S. News & World Report

Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Hershey Medical Center is ranked as one of the best orthopaedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to state-of-the-art treatments, translational research and provider training.

Coordinated, Specialized Care Through a Dedicated Institute

Our orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. There, they focus on providing you with multidisciplinary, tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments and technologies. This produces the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and sub-specialize in additional niche areas of orthopaedics.

Specialists at the institute who care for bunions include foot and ankle surgeons, podiatrists, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other specialty care providers.

Advancing Orthopaedic Medicine Through Research

The doctors and researchers in our Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing our field through scientific discovery and education. As the only academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine, and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials.

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